Tag: G.K. Chesterton

The Canticle of the Sun

saint-francis-of-assisi-detail.jpg!BlogOne of the works of literature which has had a more profound influence on me–my thinking, my spiritual life, my way of looking at the world–is G.K. Chesterton’s biography of St. Francis of Assisi. In this book, he presents a sketch of the saint, somewhat light on biographical details, but full of insights on Francis’ character. It was in the pages of this biography that I was first exposed to St. Francis’ powerful, beautiful poem, The Canticle of the Sun–another work of literature that has had a profound influence on me. Here is an English translation of the text, which was originally written in 1224 in the Umbrian dialect of Italian (in fact, this poem is thought to be one of the very first poems written in the Italian vernacular).

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

And here is a version of the poem set to music by Leo Sowerby in 1945: Canticle of the Sun

There are a lot of things that could be said about the Canticle of the Sun, but I’m going to focus on how it’s affected me, personally. When I first read the poem, I didn’t know what to think about it. I wasn’t sure if I even liked it. I found it strange, the imagery delightful yet not what I was used to. The concept was not something that I had thought of much before, or had been exposed to very often. The idea of viewing the natural world as a brother was relatively new to me, though I had already come to believe that God shows forth His majesty in Nature. I’ve always been something of a nature-lover, but I did not look at the natural world with the same kind of familial affection expressed in the Canticle.

But then the words off St. Francis began to work their way into my heart. They filled me with a mysterious longing and worked on my soul. As time went by, I went continuously back to The Canticle of the Sun, re-reading it because it seemed an expression of some deep truth. These words, from the mouth of one of the most astonishing of Medieval saints, have stayed with me even when I forget so much else that I read.

From St. Francis, as expressed in the Canticle, I have learned to see the hidden ways in which all of God’s creation cries out His praises. I have found hints of the way Man is meant to have dominion over Creation–as a kindly elder brother, a gentle steward, tilling and keeping and singing of the beauty of all his little siblings, fellow creatures made, like him, to offer unending praise to God. I have seen how death is not always to be feared, can even be a gift. I have seen how to praise God for pain and suffering. The Canticle has been, to me, a truly enlightening look at pain, a marker showing that all things can work together for the good of those who love Him–that trials, properly embraced, can bring about good.

This poem has also brought a new light and joy into the natural world for me. I can look at the sun now and laugh because he is my little brother. I can join my voice with the voice of the moon, of the wind, of water, of the animals, all of us praising God; I can give thanks that all those things should be given as gifts to Man. I think, for me, this is the biggest impact of The Canticle of the Sun; the joy that it has enabled me to see and take part in.

saint-francis-of-assisi1Praise the Lord for Brother Francis! For the written word, so useful and humble and good, a vessel for all manner of meaning! Praise the Lord for song and poetry, lenses of truth, of pure feeling and of connection with deep and inexpressible things.

Peace,

-Jared

Assorted Thoughts

It’s a few days late to be posting this, but I might as well–I’ve finished NaNoWriMo. (And yes, I did it on time even though this post isn’t arriving until three days later :P ) I write this post now only because I woke up early for no reason and am being very slow to get about my day in protest. I’ve already been lazing around for a couple of hours wishing to be asleep. But anyway, no reason to sit around complaining. NaNoWriMo. It was hard this year. Much, much harder than last year. Last year the story flowed out of my brain beautifully. I didn’t have any difficulties with it whatsoever until the last few days of the month, where I realized that I had no idea how to end the story despite how well it had been going to that point. But this year… well, I was at least a couple thousand words behind the par wordcount from the 10th of November all the way to the final day. That just gives you an idea. The story fought me at every turn and in the end I decided to give up on finishing it. The last 20,000 words or so of what I wrote for NaNoWriMo were not part of the original story I started, but extras–other scenes, story bits about the pasts of some of the main characters, even a fairy tale–that made reference to and interwove with the main story. Once I switched to writing those it went much better. Now I have a good deal of material to use when and if I ever decide to rewrite this, so I suppose it isn’t a wasted month. Still, I’m disappointed that I didn’t get a finished novel this year….

 

This month, December, I’m going to relax a bit where my writing is concerned. I’ve decided I want to get better at poetry, so I’m going to try to write at least one poem every day this month, but other than that I’m not doing any serious writing. I shall also be picking out and plotting my next novel. I’m going to take my time with this one, give it plenty of thought, and hopefully it will let me write it. I haven’t decided what it will be yet but I do have a few ideas floating around. Preparing to write a new story is always extremely exciting, so I am looking forward to seeing what develops over the rest of the month.

 

Christmas is approaching! I love Christmastime. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, but it occurs to me now that I’ve been so wrapped up in my own thoughts and problems that I’ve hardly taken time to think of it. When I have thought of it, the thoughts have often been concerned with how much I hate the way modern society has twisted the holiday. Whatever your beliefs, Christmas was never meant to be a celebration of commercialism and and mindless, empty sentiments. In the Christian tradition it’s a celebration of Christ’s birth, of salvation; in the Pagan tradition it’s meant to be a joyous festival (on cursory inspection I haven’t found information regarding what exactly was celebrated at Yule in various pagan traditions, and am too tired to do extensive research at the moment); in the secular tradition it’s supposed to be a celebration of love and togetherness. But the stench of modernity has twisted the whole thing and I hate the things this society does. There’s much talk about “the true spirit of Christmas” at this time of year but it seems that so many people don’t get it. Well, I suppose there isn’t much I can do, except try to act in accordance with the spirit of the season myself. Which, I suppose, means I should stop thinking about much I dislike western society’s modern interpretation of the holiday and just enjoy it, be at peace and celebrate salvation and love and joy. So that’s what I’ll do. I shan’t say anything else about how I hate the commercialism and other silly modern things surrounding Christmas anymore in the rest of the month. And what a lovely season it is! Giving gifts and celebrating with friends and family! The festive decorations and the many varieties of delicious food. Once again we are at my favorite time of year, the last vestiges of the sunset before the night of winter really sets in. So a Merry December to all of you!

 

On another note, I’ve been reading G.K. Chesterton lately. I think this has definitely fueled my extreme dislike for modern society. The things he wrote in the late 19th/early 20th centuries still ring true today, even truer even, as society gets worse and worse. Yet that makes the beauty stand out more starkly. The beauty of a kind act, the beauty of the sky and of old crumbled cement and of things working. The duality is astounding.

 

Now I feel a little pretentious and I’m tired and I really ought to get about my day. A shower sounds lovely. And breakfast. It’s too bad I’m all out of pumpkin pie… I made two of them for Thanksgiving and they lasted me a couple weeks… perhaps I will make some pumpkin bread.

 

~ Jared

Well…

…I was going to write a blog post about cynicism, detailing the reasons behind my recent decision to wipe out all vestiges of cynical thinking and feeling in myself, but then I realized I’d have to write a novel to properly explain it. Yep. Always interesting when that happens. But at least I’m following in the footsteps of greatness, because G.K. Chesterton would sometimes do the same thing if someone asked him a question he didn’t feel he could answer concisely. So now I shall be pondering ways to fit this theme into the next story I write… which could actually fit quite well with it, considering what it’s about.

At any rate, hello again, cyberpeople. I know this isn’t much of a post considering how long it’s been since my last one.

My excuse is that in the past few months, I’ve been living on my own for the first time in my life. I got a job, which has unexpectedly resulted in my being exposed to a multitude of stupid pop songs and experiencing, for the first time, the supreme irritation of having bad songs stuck in my head. This also means that most of my free time has been spent working on more important writing projects, doing art, hanging out with friends, or playing video games which may or may not be way too addicting (Skyrim, anyone?). I’m not going to apologize for huge spaces between blog posts anymore. If you have a complaint, I can assure you that the angler fish is quite hungry.

So this post was meant to be rather meaningful, but like I said, I realized I’d have to write a novel. So now it’s basically useless. I’m going to make onigiri and miso soup this week… maybe I’ll post about that next time and add to the randomness. Talk about cooking a bit. I’m finding that I rather enjoy cooking. It’s satisfying and fun. I suppose I couldn’t have avoided learning to cook well, considering the kind of food I like to eat. I’m not one to live off ramen, let’s just say that.

Also, G.K. Chesterton is amazing. Let’s have some quotes to finish this up.

“Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”

“There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.”

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”

“The world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder.”

I need to read me some more G.K. Chesterton.

Be at peace and don’t forget to wonder.

~ Jared